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This week, a bit of a debate is raging across the Intertubes: What makes one tablet better than another? Is it the tablet’s hardware — the chips, ports, and RAM — or the software, the seemingly endless lines of code that put all those parts to work?

It’s an important question many of us will soon face as we make some tricky comparisons: iPad 2 vs. Android. The Motorola Xoom vs. the LG G-Slate. With each passing month, the number of options is only going to increase.

The truth, of course, is that both hardware and software are important things to consider when picking out a tablet (or a smartphone, laptop, or practically any other type of technology, for that matter). Anyone who says specs are irrelevant is merely playing a marketing game to make his product look good.

You start with the hardware: Does the tablet you’re eyeing have enough processing power to give you the speed you need? Does it have basic things like a USB port and MicroSD slot — and if not, do you mind? How important is size: Do you want 7 inches, 8 inches, or 10? (Hey, we’re talking about tablets here, pal. Get your mind out of the gutter.) These are all things you’ll have to think about; if the tablet you pick doesn’t have the body you want, it’ll only be a matter of time before you end up feeling frustrated.

Once you’ve found a form you like, though, the tablet’s software — namely, its operating system — is probably going to have the biggest impact on how your journey turns out. Using the iPad, with Apple’s iOS operating system, is a drastically different experience from using an Android tablet like the Motorola Xoom. And figuring out which option is right for you isn’t always easy.

Yesterday, we looked at how Apple’s new iPad 2 stacked up next to the emerging army of Android 3.0, aka Honeycomb, tablets. We talked about some of the advantages Android’s new tablet operating system holds over Apple’s iOS. But to really get a feeling for where Honeycomb shines — and where it still needs polish — you have to go beyond the basics and spend some time exploring the platform’s many nooks and crannies. Honeycomb, after all, isn’t the same Android you’ve used on your smartphone.

I first experienced Honeycomb back at Google’s Android event in February. Since then, I’ve made it my business to learn the OS in and out. I’ve whittled away many an hour swimming through the software, and I’ve discovered some pretty interesting things along the way.